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Beginning with the Tree of Knowledge in the book of Genesis to the Hometree in the hugely popular movie Avatar, trees are ripe with symbolism, mythology, religious connotations, and political controversy.

It is not surprising that artists over the centuries have chosen to portray, in many ways, these sentinels of our landscape. Honing in on a single specimen for analytical study, using the forest, dark and deep, as a metaphor for life’s mysteries, or chronicling a clear-cut swathe of land as testament to man’s abuse of nature, trees can tell a compelling visual story to which we can all relate.

The loan of Arthur Lismer’s painting Sumach Pattern, Georgian Bay and its accompanying small study on board from the McMichael Collection provide an opportune moment for us to examine this subject for which the Group of Seven is so revered. Emblematic of the “true north, strong and free”, the iconic images of Tom Thomson’s Jack Pine or AY Jackson’s Red Maple are seared into our memory banks.

Lismer’s work, though less well-known, still personifies our collective vision of the windswept and rugged Canadian landscape, where vegetation struggles against the elements, in a fight for survival, on a rocky terrain.

What led up to this extraordinary vision and what followed after, including the environmental crisis we now face, is explored in this exhibition drawn from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s Permanent Collection spanning roughly three centuries of artistic achievement.



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